Lost in the Movies: THE ARCHIVE Chapter 2: Engaging with the Election (October - November 2008)

THE ARCHIVE Chapter 2: Engaging with the Election (October - November 2008)

If I just maintained a pattern of eclectic reviews for a decade there wouldn't really be a point to dividing this archive into different chapters. However, I frequently changed my general approach and/or honed in on a particular subject; one of the earliest examples of the latter was my election series in the fall of 2008, as Barack Obama and John McCain contested the presidency. For twenty-six entries, I covered political thrillers, issue documentaries, and Frontline specials addressing both relevant history and current events (it's worth noting that at the time I was far more centrist than I would later become).

Subjects include nonfiction films about pertinent sixties topics, campaign dramas, a couple slices of Michael Moore agitprop, serious studies on Iraq and the War on Terror, and political observations from auteurs like Spike Lee, Oliver Stone, and Frank Capra.

My highlight for this period is my review of Iraq in Fragments, an unusual film I had discovered a couple years earlier and wanted to share.


Countdown to the Election
Announcing an election series to cover both the issues and the drama of politics

Starting with the freshest film - Oliver Stone's rushed take on the sitting president, just released in theaters

Primary & 4 Days in November
Pairing two documentaries: the dawn and twilight of the Kennedy era, with the first anticipating an aesthetic revolution while the second sounds one last cry for the newsreel style

The Candidate
The game overtakes ideals for Robert Redford's underdog Democrat

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Frank Capra's morality play was surprisingly more clear-eyed, even hard-edged, than I remembered

Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?
For my hundredth post, a lo-fi doc about a grassroots candidate

The Contender
A very Aaron Sorkin-esque (for better or worse) political intrigue from an already distant 2000, frequently trying to have it both ways

The Weather Underground
The radical sixties group became weirdly relevant again in the '08 campaign, providing an opportunity to re-visit a favorite documentary

Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater
Barry Goldwater was often cited admiringly by liberal commentators in the zeroes, but even back then the reverence seemed iffy

Fahrenheit 9/11
A probably too harsh take on Michael Moore's blockbuster documentary (some criticisms might remain, but I wasn't appreciative enough at the time of the value of agitprop)

So Goes the Nation
Exploring the 2004 election by focusing on Ohio

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
Spike Lee's sprawling Katrina documentary

I was impressed with Michael Moore's Fahrenheit follow-up, diagnosing the health-care industry

Maxed Out
A very recent documentary on debt (credit card, national, and otherwise) felt extremely prescient in October 2008

A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crisis
Descriptive but not particularly prescriptive doc emphasizes doom over solutions

An Inconvenient Truth
Environmentalism gets a chic sheen in this Gore/Guggenheim collaboration

The Devil Came on Horseback
The international section of my election series begins with a documentary about Darfur

Inside North Korea
I was rightly dismissive of this National Geographic program's sensationalism, but in retrospect I should have been much more skeptical of its overall outlook too

Iran: The Next Iraq?
I was much more on point criticizing this saber-rattling doc, given its clash with more sober assessments of U.S./Iran relations that I'd seen

Frontline: The War Briefing
Frontline covers Afghanistan when it was still known as "the good war"


Frontline: The Al Qaeda Files
A series of Frontline specials on the War on Terror

Taxi to the Dark Side
America's use of torture, examined broadly and through one specific case

No End in Sight
The disaster of the Iraq occupation, criticized by a director who supported the invasion and seems fairly sympathetic to the State Department

Iraq in Fragments
The strongest film about Iraq at the time, offering an impressionistic view of three distinct Iraqi experiences

The Choice
As Election Day approached, I covered the Obama and McCain campaigns through a recent Frontline special

Election Overlook
Surveying my entire election series (followed by comments written just after Obama clinched the win)

(I also covered this period on Episode 2 of my Patreon podcast)

Next: Tying Up Loose Ends (November - December 2008)
(in which I finish my Twin Peaks and D.W. Griffith series and create some bigger posts)

Previous: Look Ma, I'm blogging! (July - October 2008)

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